Trip Report - 10 Day Eastern Caribbean Cruise - August 3-12 - Bayonne, Bermuda, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, San Juan, Bayonne
Our family consists of our son - 18 - who normally walks with a walker but uses a wheelchair on vacation; my husband - 45 - and myself - 51 who uses an ECV (scooter) because of back problems.
We were so disappointed because we missed the "sailaway" since we left late and "my boys" were dying to get to dinner (didn't know until we got home about the problem with the "strange submarine" in the harbor). We thought we were leaving late because they were still loading luggage on board (we even got a notice half way through the cruise that some people were still missing their luggage and would you please check to make sure you hadn't received theirs along with yours - HELLO?!?!? Strange that they felt they had to tell people to do that). We decided we would get up early so we could see going under the Verazanno Bridge when we returned. Would you believe we got up at 6 am - I opened the curtains - and the bridge was ABOUT 100 FEET IN THE DISTANCE!!!! LOL I yelled for our son to get out of bed and onto the balcony and we made it just in time to get pictures going under the bridge - fascinating!!!! We later found out that the captain had made the announcement at a Q&A the day before that we would be going under the bridge at 6:02!!!! Glad we didn't decide to get up at 6:30 instead - I would have been upset!!!! LOL
We went to the Meet & Mingle on Saturday and everyone received a very nice notepad that hangs around your neck with slots to hold cards and a pen. I also won a bottle of champagne - not bad!!!
We had a problem with never being invited to the meeting for "Special Needs Passengers" on the second day - but after several trips to the Guest Relations desk - we finally got the information they had passed out. By the way - on one of our trips to that desk - we asked if they had a deck of cards we could have (thanks to another cruiser's tip) and they gave us one. Unfortunately, it was just a regular deck, not a Royal Caribbean one - but oh well).
We do plan on making some suggestions to Royal Caribbean from a handicapped person's point of view like - lowering the food labels in the Windjammer to wheelchair level, and NOT closing the pool with a lift and the adult pool with the steps at the same time!!!! We only went swimming three times - but the adult pool was definitely easier than the other one. Unfortunately, two of the three times we went to go swimming, they had the adult pool closed. The first time, we just went in the regular pool (no lift) - it wasn't easy getting out, but we did it. The second time was wonderful in the adult pool - although we are also planning on telling them they should paint those last five steps a different color than the rest of the pool. I saw them and warned our son before he headed in, but we saw several people fall off them thinking they were already on the bottom - especially elderly people. The third time we went - they had the adult pool closed AGAIN and we asked when it would be reopened. They told us in about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. We told them we'd wait!!! We did - and they opened it just about half an hour later - LOL The young man who opened it was very, very nice about it. We had fabulous weather the whole 10 day cruise with the exception of some rain during the night and a few drizzles on St. Maarten - but when it just barely started to drizzle when we were in the pool and 3/4 of the people rain out - we couldn't help but laugh - HELLO PEOPLE - YOU'RE ALREADY WET!!! It was not a thunder storm - just rain. We even watched to see if they ran back to get their towels or books out of the rain - nope - their things were undercover - VERY strange.
Elevators were a nightmare - not that they would normally be a problem - and we certainly don't mind waiting our turn - but I can't tell you how many times we would split up since we couldn't all fit into the elevator unless it was empty or only a couple of people in it - and then everyone who would come by in the meantime would just push right past us and get on even though we had been waiting and waiting and waiting - UGH UGH UGH VERY frustrating!!!!! VERY cool the way they put what day it is into the carpeting in the elevator - LOVED it!!!
We couldn't take the Ocean Lab tour because it was not handicapped accessible. At first, we were disappointed because we THOUGHT all of the spots were taken and we hadn't signed up early enough. Then we found out that the staff had never changed the sign up sheets from the last cruise. But when we went to check again - we realized that it wasn't handicapped accessible - so it wouldn't have mattered if we had gone earlier.
We must admit - we were disappointed with the "iceberg". When we went, it looked like a beehive!!!! You could tell that it was just coils with ice forming on the outside. I guess I was expecting a small - but real - "hunk" of ice. I guess that was unrealistic considering what it would take to keep it frozen - but it just looked strange.
We LOVED the parade (only made it to the second one), the Ice Skating Show and the comedians!!!!! We played Bingo three times. Would you believe I was the first one with only one number left to win the cruise?!?!!? Oh well - I didn't win - but it was fun. There was one young college boy in the casino one night actually crying because he had lost $1500 and didn't have any way of paying it back!!!! Gave our son a good lesson about only betting what you can afford to lose.
Speaking of winning a cruise - we did go ahead and sign up for another cruise with the $100 deposit per person, no-expiration deal. We never did get an appointment with the Loyalty Ambassador, after waiting for 2 hours on a "first come, first served" basis - we basically just filled out the paperwork and handed it to her.
We ate all of our dinners in the dining room with three of our Cruise Critic friends. Very nice! We did eat in the dining room for the second formal night - but the first one we ate at Portofino's - FABULOUS!!!!! At first I was questioning whether we should pay an additional $60 when our meals were already paid for - but we ended up giving them EVEN MORE because we loved it so much!!! We were so full and couldn't fit dessert in. We asked the waiter and waitress if we could possibly have dessert packed up to go back to our cabin. They not only said yes - they packed up one of EVERYTHING so that we could try it - LOL AND they decorated a piece of the flourless cake with whipped cream and wrote Congratulations with red gel icing on the plate for our son's birthday. VERY nice!!!! I can guarantee you - we saw EVERYTHING for formal nights - from regular slacks for the men, to sports coats, to dark suits (that's what my husband and son wore) to military uniforms to kilts to tuxedos. Just go as you're comfortable and enjoy yourself!!! I washed my husband and son's dress shirts before we left, but didn't press them on purpose - knowing they would be wrinkled from packing them in the wardrobe bag. The first night on the cruise - we left a note for our cabin steward to please send them out to be pressed so that we would have them back for the next night without paying for express service. It only cost us $3.50 total for both shirts - had them back in plenty of time - well worth it!!!
Speaking of desserts - we certainly had our fill of cookies!!! I like them a little softer - but they were good!!!!! We had them quite a few times - thank God for room service (lots of room service breakfasts too)!!!!! You can't beat free room service - we gave each attendant $2-$4 depending on the size of the order and a couple of boxes of Mike & Ike jelly beans - since that's where my husband works - they LOVED it!!! LOL I found the low fat or sugar free desserts to be some of the best ones we had - and I NEVER eat them at home. I also LOVED the cold soups!!!! We never did make it to Johnny Rockets. We went one afternoon - but it was so crowded and it was sooooo hot outside wherever you didn't get a breeze, that we decided to just go to the Windjammer instead. We bought a "rollable top aluminum table" from Amazon before we left to use for room service. It actually collapses into a bag about the size of a camping chair, only weighs 9 pounds and fit right into our suitcase. It was the best investment we made for the cruise!!!! It made room service WONDERFUL!!!!!
All in all - our excursions went well. We couldn't book any excursions through Royal Caribbean because of having to carry both the wheelchair and the scooter. We didn't book a tour in Bermuda and it was VERY tough getting around because of having very few, if any, curb cutouts. The ferry was FABULOUS - but we could only ride from King's Wharf to Hamilton since it was Sunday. We were concerned that only the larger ferry was handicapped accessible - but the smaller one is also handicapped accessible - VERY easy to board. We did go out the walkway to Snorkel Beach and we went to the Glass Factory and Rum Cake place. We were going to go into the Maritime Museum to see the dolphins - but it was VERY hot and our son was getting frustrated - so we just went back to the ship. We had excursions set up for the other locations. We used Joyce Prince Tours on St. Maarten and we absolutely LOVED her!!!! I would highly, highly recommend her. I had a complaint about our tour on St. Thomas. We booked a private tour with Godfrey because I had heard good things about his group tours. He said he could arranged a private tour for us for 7 1/2 hours for $300 (half day was $250, so we figured why not?). We asked to go to Coral World and the guide waited for us in the parking lot (we were there for 2 - 2 1/2 hours). We asked to stop at the Boy Scout Council we passed because our son is an avid Boy Scout - but he told us no - that there would probably only be one person there. We told him that would be fine - but he said no. Then he returned us to our ship 2 1/2 hours early!!!!! We asked him why we were returning so early and he said he had shown us all he had planned on showing us. UGH UGH UGH As a tour guide, he was fine - but we were sooooooooo disappointed with not being able to stop at the Boy Scout office and being returned so early - I contacted Godfrey when we got home. He told me that the guide was the gentleman who had gotten him started in the business and was not an employee of his - that he had given him the whole $300 and that there was nothing he could do but pray for him. WHAT?!?!?!? Believe me - the guide didn't get a tip and I would not recommend Godfrey if that is how he is going to handle complaints. Oh well - on to Puerto Rico and another fabulous tour. This time we booked through Shoretrips.com and LOVED our guide - Victor. If you want a fantastic tour of Old and New San Juan - he's your man!!!
Our room onboard was FANTASTIC!!!! I'm not sure how the size of our handicapped accessible Junior Suite compares to a regular one - but we had more than enough room. We went to the "First Timers" talk and the guy (JJ) gave our son a RC hat because we told him we were celebrating his 18th birthday and high school graduation. We got a terrific map when we went to the "New Comers" meeting - it folds down to about the size of a deck of cards - but much thinner. When opened - it was about the size of a regular piece of paper (8.5 x 11). I'm sure they would have them at Guest Relations if you would ask. We also met Julia (the Cruise Program Assistant or Administrator - not sure which) quite a few times. She said she was going to send us a gift to our room and the last night when we got back to our cabin - there was a RC cooler with two baseball caps, two keychains, two pens, a photo album, two "card carriers", two water wallets and two luggage tags!!!!! Very cool!!!!
BTW - thank you to whoever mentioned that the small handheld fans would come in handy for the muster drill!!!! Being claustrophobic - they were a BIG lifesaver for me!!!! No pun intended!!! LOL If you are using a wheelchair or scooter - GO EARLY FOR THE MUSTER DRILL since they shut down the elevators. That was one of the BEST pieces of advice we received from this site.
We bought "Bingo the Dog" so that we could get some free cards each time we played. He was $10 and they said we can use him forever on Royal Caribbean Cruises. We also bought the cookbook they offer - beautiful!!!! We signed a slip for $27 - but it came through on our final bill as $27.95 - can't figure that one out. Even if they charged the 15% tip on it since it went through the dining room bar - that wouldn't be right. Wasn't worth standing in the line at Guest Relations for only 95 cents.
They no longer offer juice on the soda cards - strictly soda. We bought soda cards for all three of us even though I don't drink soda. I had read about being able to get several kinds of juices, so I bought one for myself to have something to drink in the bars and/or at poolside. We would never buy them again. First of all - my husband and son didn't drink enough soda to make them worthwhile. Secondly - when I went to get a juice at one of the bars on the promenade on the third day - I was told they no longer offer juice. I went to Guest Relations. They said we should have been given a paper when we were boarding saying that the soda cards no longer included juice. We were never given such a paper. I told them I wouldn't have bought the card had I known that. They offered to give me juice - JUST THIS ONE TIME. I don't think so. They offered to refund my money if I returned the cup and give them back my card with the sticker - no problem. They took the sticker off my card and I handed in my cup - filled with ice water. I later checked my SeaPass account on the TV - they had refunded my money - but not all of it. They had still billed me for the first two days. I went BACK to Guest Relations. They said that I had had full use of the card for two days and that's why I was being charged for them. I argued that I had had NO use of the card or I would have known earlier I couldn't get juice. I explained AGAIN that I never drink soda - and if I had really wanted a soda, didn't they think I could have gotten one on my husband or son's card?!?!?! They agreed to take the entire charge off my account.
We only went to one of the two midnight buffets - NEVER EVER EVER AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!! They are a NIGHTMARE with a wheelchair or scooter!!!! And the people are real pigs - dropping food all over the tables and on the floor and not caring at all about it. I was soooooooo claustrophobic by the time we got out - I just wanted to scream!!!!! We couldn't even find a place to sit down - we just took our plates back to our room.
Our cabin was on Deck 10 - when we went to Deck 7 to go to the library, we couldn't believe how much narrower the halls were there. It makes it very difficult to get through if they have the service carts out. Look to see where you're going on those decks if you're in a wheelchair so that you use the elevators closest to your destination.
You can NOT get through decks 2 or 3 from one end of the ship to the other - so if you're using a wheelchair - make sure you know whether you want the forward or aft of the ship and then use the promenade or casino to get through (casino is easier if it's closed - otherwise the promenade is easier).
Another fabulous tip I got from CC was to talk to all of the crew members about their own families and countries. They were all soooooooo thrilled to tell us about them. The crew is very nervous about what it's going to be like to be in Bayonne for the winter. One waitress we had said they had told them to pack "warm clothes" so she packed ONE SWEATER. OMG - we told her she might want to rethink that!!!!! At least she was going to be going home to India for December and January - so we told her to pack a lot more warm clothes for her next "stint". She told us they work on a six month contract and then they're off for two months. RCCI also arranges for cheaper airfare for them - along with paying one way of their trip. Very nice!!!
All in all - a very nice cruise and we're anxious to cruise with Royal Caribbean again.